Lessons learned from an atheist- (preface)
There is something to be said for being able to defend your Christian Faith without even having to quote a single Bible verse. It really gives atheist/agnostic types some intellectual fits. It's kind of like getting them to beat themselves over their own heads with their own idiocy. (Maybe this speaks to why the Latin equivalent to the word "agnostic" is the word "ignoramus" )
Of all the great lessons learned in my correspondence with an atheist on a popular social media website, the aforementioned point probably summarizes best the first important lesson that I THOUGHT that I learned. But, as I put this booklet together and reflect upon each lesson learned; seing NOW some of the arrogance and not very helpful "attitude" of my first point. I praise and thank the Lord that by far, the lesson learned, that I put forth at the end of this book is the REAL most paramount lesson. I hope as one reads this, they can sense, understand and even appreciate my lesson.
While putting this booklet together, it became apparent to me that most of it had already been written. I feel it was the guidance of the Holy Spirit that compelled me to diligently catalog and save the following lengthy detailed correspondence that I had over the course of a few months, with an interesting man that I will call "Chadwick" (to protect his privacy and identity).
This man, Chadwick, was a proud, outspoken atheist. He was a successful big city lawyer with a prestigious law degree, so obviously he was a very intelligent man. In my view, Chadwick gloriously went on to illustrate the difference between intelligence and wisdom.
He also was a proud gay man. And, he ALSO grew up in an evangelical Midwest church; the son of a pastor I think, and he once considered himself a Christian.
I only mention his sexual preference to maybe shine a light on another lesson about how our pride and sin often can harden our hearts and our resolve AGAINST God. For in God's eyes ALL Rebellion against His Word, His laws and decrees... really His Will... is sin. Sometimes it is openly arrogant and proud, and sometimes it is hidden.
Chadwick's past history speaks a lot about who the man became spiritually, as I think you will see upon reading the forthcoming correspondence.
I DID feel a kind of kinship with Chadwick. For I too, had not too many years earlier, found myself oftentimes contemplating the same kinds of atheistic questions, doubts and rationalities that Chadwick had been expressing to me.
My own spiritual battle, (praise the Lord for His Mercy and Grace) had been hard fought, and probably still raging some at the time of our interaction. But, the heavy thinking, arguments and debates I had with Chadwick have ultimately only served to clarify and solidify my own faith. Thank You Lord!, and thanks also to Chadwick.
I don't know what Chadwick's current spiritual bend is, but I continue to pray that the Lord had used me somehow, to plant some restorative seeds to a "prodigal son". But, who knows but God. For all I know, Chadwick has gone on to use our correspondence to "illustrate" the lunacy of a Christian (To his mind), and presents the same, as some kind of evidence to HIS atheistic cohorts. I seriously doubt it though.
The nature of a back and forth online debate can, at times, be very rough. It can full of trains of thoughts that drift in and out and sometimes can be just plain confusing to an outside observer. I have tried my best to keep it as clear as possible without sacrificing its authenticity. I think there are many great things to be gleaned from this correspondence by anyone who has interests in theological issues, OR is just plain curious about Christianity versus Atheism.
I am in no way trying to put forth any kind of idea that I am anything but a layman in the ways of Theology. But, I do feel that I have, from this experience, learned much. I have much to say on this issue, and I feel that the Holy Spirit compels me to share this, as it may help some people.
I would be very interested in knowing if this kind of booklet would interest some, and if this particular part would be considered more a preface or an introduction. Also any help in clarification on this, advice, or some free resources to check out would be greatly appreciated.
I tried to go back as far as I could and find the very roots of our debate. But, being that the debate didn't really grab my attention as something I should chronicle until after some discussion, the original thread is hard to find.
I will also point out here that Chadwick, in his rebuttals would usually break my longer diatribes down and interject his own responses into them. Thus in presenting this, I oftentimes adopted his flow of thought as presented by him to me (in his responses) this allows the chapters to have more of a back and forth debate feel.
Keep in mind too, as previously discussed in the introduction that many points and arguments expressed aren't always addressed right away in our responses. Especially in the beginning. For example, many of Chadwick' s attacks on the authenticity and veracity of The Bible don't really get addressed until a bit later.
I also begin each chapter with a quick snippet on the lesson I learned from each part (or chapter) of our correspondence.
Lesson 1:Christians and atheists alike can only see and attach their beliefs to the "proof " that can, and even maybe does "prove" their idealogy. (This idea might seem kind of like a non-sensical or illogical statement, but as the book unfolds you will see that the basis of this is foundational to the incredible aspect of Christian theology that this debate exposes to me.)
Lesson 2: Many atheists are very hung up on the "fairness" of the Biblical assertions about Heaven and Hell. What might that mean?
Lesson three: Atheists really don't like logic, even when they say they love it.
Here is the beginning of the debate (To the best that I can find):
DOUG: Chadwick, I know you love evidence and reason and logic. As do I. I see you using the EXACT same line of reasoning and arguments that derailed me relationally from God for a number of years. So I want to, to the best way I can, share with you how I think we can explain the Christian theology using reason, logic and evidence. I think God loves reason and logic, because after all, He says "He IS Truth". Reason and logic ARE a big part of truth.
I ask you, for the sake of my argument, to accept a precept that you are opposed to right now. This being the existence of a God.
Chadwick: No, I won't presume the existence of your all powerful "being." You must explain its existence or how it came into being. Otherwise, all of your theories are empty fantasies. Any theory of existence has to address "first cause." If your answer is "god has always existed," then my answer is "energy has always existed." You say you love evidence, reason and logic. However, the evidence, and reason and logic support my assertion over yours, hands down. What's more believable, that simple energy popped of nothingness, or an unimaginably complex being popped out of nothingness? It is impossible to argue your position with reason, the evidence we have at hand (science has proven that energy and matter can pop out of nothing), and logic.
DOUG: Now I ask you to try and think like God. (I know we are not outside of time and space like God, but being we were made in his image, I think on a rudimentary level we can have the same basic thought patterns as God.) Now, imagine yourself an all powerful creator. Imagine yourself a relational creator. (Again, I'm inferring this because we are relational beings, made in his image ). Now if you wanted your creation to REALLY love you for you, and not be like a machine or robot, and you wanted to share with your creation all of your great future creations for an eternity you would give your creation a freewill. A freewill to either choose to love you or to choose to not love you. Now that being said, how would you judge who it is that really loves you, and who rejects you ? You would set up some kind of standard. (I suppose you could just decide arbitrarily at your own whim who loves you and who doesn't, but for whatever reason, you decide to actually share that standard, or "line in the sand" if you will, with your creation. Doesn't that sound reasonable to you ?
Chadwick: For purposes of discussion, I will accept that I can think like your made up god. With that in mind, I know that offering the creatures I've created a "choice" of loving me or not, and them going to hell, if they don't, isn't a choice, but blackmail. The assertion that your all powerful, all knowing, unimaginably complex and intelligent being can't come up with a better option than blackmail, is absurd. Such a being is not worth my worship, nor my time.
DOUG: Now it is the studying and tracing of this " line in the sand " and how it has existed and moved around within the text of the Bible that offers the most incredible and compelling evidence of an apparently grace filled loving Creator. The fact that the text of the bible has said WHAT it had said and WHEN it was said and carried forth through time unchanged, to the best of my knowledge, has never been denied. It becomes very obvious that a being OUTSIDE of time was able to tell his people things to write down, creating an actual love story that covers thousands of years and told by 44 different authors, all about this "line in the sand ". Now as God had gracefully moved this line in the sand around with his different covenants with Adam, and Noah, then Abraham and finally Moses, and because God being outside of time already knew that these " lines in the sand " would be ineffective at achieving a relational love with his people, he had ALSO amazingly woven throughout the text of the Bible his "ULTIMATE LINE IN THE SAND ". The prophesy and fulfillment of his ultimate covenant with us through Jesus Christ. ( A most incredible and undeniable evidence ) .
Chadwick: This line of reasoning has been discredited even by theologians who still believe in a god. The authors knew their history and wrote their stories to fall in line with the same. It wasn't prophecy fulfilled, it was authors writing stories that comported with what the "scriptures of old" foretold. I could easily have done the same. Aside from that, the Bible is so full of contradictions and errors, it's laughable. http://atheism.about.com/od/biblecontradictionserror/
DOUG:As far as your question " why did Jesus have to die ?"Here is a short list :It was prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament.It went along with the sacrifice / atonement theme that is carried throughout the Old Testament.It is foreshadowed beautifully in the masterfully told love story that is the Bible Jesus needed to die and then be resurrected to show his deity.
In practical terms it is the very tool (or wooden stick, or dare I say wooden cross?), That God used to draw this "line in the sand".
It is God being born as the son of man, and then dyrng as a man so then man can then be born as the SON OF GOD! ! (The REAL circle of life ?)
Chadwick: None of those even come close to answering my question. See my answer in the prior paragraph, and I'll address just one, here: "Jesus 'needed' to die and then be resurrected to show his deity?" Are you kidding me? Who said he "needed" to die? And I can think of a hundred ways Jesus could have demonstrated his "deity," without having to die and be resurrected. Here's a simple idea that seems to be have been beyond your god's ability to comprehend or put into place: God could have simply appeared in the sky, quoted the Golden Rule, and stated that good people will go to heaven and bad people will go to hell, and then secretly decided to let everyone go to heaven (with the bad people going through some sort of appropriate punishment for a time, of course, before getting released into heaven.) No death or resurrection needed. He made the rules. He could change them. And you still haven't addressed why an all powerful god would have come up with such a barbaric approach to his creation, as the one you are purporting to be true.
DOUG: I know that you having grown up in a Christian church are quite familiar with the Christian theology of the atonement.I want to step outside of traditional Christian orthodoxy and share with you a few of my own thoughts that might help you in this spiritual journey. I find it kind of "naive " for lack of a better word, for Christians to only see GOD, (who has existed for all eternity through the lens of only this little sliver of the galaxy and only this little sliver (say ten thousand years ) of time. It becomes obvious I think to thinking persons that there is SOOOO much more going on in the universe than our little human minds can perceive or understand, but that being said , I think that when you look at and study this historically significant, incredible, obviously super naturally inspired document that REALLY does exist called the Holy Bible... it really seems quite evident to me that this document is the only REAL instruction manual that tells us exactly HOW our eternal souls are expected to behave in this tiny segment of time, in this tiny speck of the galaxy.
Chadwick: The bible and it's story about a god and humanity is nothing more than a childlike attempt to address our existence. It is certainly not inspired. Any book that purports that there is a "Being," which will send his creations to hell forever, if they don't love him, is NOT inspired by anything, or "Being," anywhere near being enlightened. It's full of contradictions, it's unscientific, and, very tellingly, it selfishly asserts that humanity is of central importance in a universe almost unimaginably large and complex. We are a speck. Humanity's attempts to deny this reality, through its various holy books is just sad, and, as inferred, embarrassingly childish.---------------
Lessons learned from an atheist Chapter 2
lesson 1:As a continuation of the first lesson in the last chapter, much is presented on how our presuppositions effect our interpretations of the evidence we are confronted with.
Lesson 2:Asking an atheist for their purported evidence seems to often fall on deaf ears.
Lesson 3:Atheism, despite what they say is based on emotion. (Try to even point out to them that their atheism is their religion... oh boy!)
Doug:Hey Chadwick very thorough response. Just a quick preliminary question on your referral to the Biblical writers' stories that comport to the " scriptures of old " you say. Exactly what are these that you are referring to ?Another quick point, the Gospels are full of Jesus showing his deity.
If there is in fact a God, then how is it up to us to decide on how God should behave?, Or how He should think? Seems to me maybe that's why He gave us His Word. But I'll definitely look into some of your points (mostly the supposed Bible contradictions ), but some of your other points sound about as ridiculous to me as probably mine sounded to you.Chadwick, upon further perusal of your 'rebuttal' I am struck with the realization that with a few exceptions, it is fraught with nothing more than your own feelings about how you "feel " God should behave. I guess your points about God "popping" out of no where and energy popping out of nowhere, that's probably a theological argument that has raved forever. I AM interested in your source of any old "scriptures as you say" that somehow you alledge were a source for the biblical text... whose veracity over the years, I might add is beyond reproach. This I think is the most critical part of my argument, which shows the divinity of the scriptures, so any real evidence to the contrary that you could put forth would be greatly appreciated. I must add also that I feel (jumping now legitimately into that realm ) that you are missing out, or just plain missing the whole experiential/ relational part of your walk on this earth, that to most Christians is VERY REAL. For whatever reason (probably the work of, I know to you, the Ghastly Holy Spirit) which I still say is being blocked out of your "graces if you will", by a stubborn pride.
Chadwick :Well, you have some researching to do. And approach it with an open mind. I used to believe as you do, and I did my research. Maybe read some books by Theologians who don't conclude the bible is divinely inspired. I know it's scary, but if you really do your research you will be surprised.
Doug:Are these theologians filled with feelings of how God SHOULD behave ? Maybe you could start me in the right direction and toss me a few names, or writings? I seriously doubt that it would be scary to me. After all, the Biblical text has been the most heavily scrutinized words in the world since their inception. The contradictions in the book of Genesis that you present to me have been defended brilliantly and dealt with by much brighter minds than mine probably several hundreds or probably a thousand or more years ago.I too can provide some great links. Here's a good one:
Now this leads me to logic I guess and this phenomenon in which our presuppositions make our scrutiny and conclusions of the bible fit in with our presupposed ideas on God. Here is an example of this: (taken from the aforementioned website) "It cannot be emphasized too strongly that creationists and evolutionists do not have different scientific evidence. We have the same scientific evidence; the interpretation of this evidence is different.
Thus, if one starts from the assumption that the fossil record was laid down over millions of years before human beings evolved, then the fossils do not provide evidence for the Flood. However, if one starts with the presupposition that the Bible's account is true, then we see the fossil record itself as evidence for a worldwide flood and there is no evidence of millions of years!" The website goes on to list several, probably better examples of this phenomena. I think this could be supported by using part of the law of non contradiction as stated on Wikipedia: "As is true of all axioms of logic, the law of non-contradiction is alleged to be neither verifiable nor falsifiable, on the grounds that any proof or disproof must use the law itself prior to reaching the conclusion . In other words, in order to verify or falsify the laws of logic one must resort to logic as a weapon, an act which would essentially be self-defeating."
I know this concept may seem bizarre to you, Chadwick, but I would expect no less from a REAL God but for him to make Himself so "obvious " to us and yet so "unobvious" to us at the same time. What an awesome incredible creator that forces us into this most profound duality that makes it about "something else ". Now I submit to you that that "something else " is the covenant God had revealed and offered to us through the Biblical Jesus Christ.
A pertinent quote from the previous website says: "If you, the reader, are prepared to look at these answers with an open mind, then you will discover that the excuse of supposed inaccuracies does not hold water. If, however, you have already convinced yourself that such an old book as the Bible just HAS to contain errors, then you may as well skip this chapter. Like my Internet forum opponent, nothing (apart from the work of the Holy Spirit) is going to convince you that the Bible is 100 percent reliable--especially not the facts!"